Teaching Baby Sign Language
When little Titus was 12 mos. old, he finally started signing to me! I was so excited when I saw his little hands form together to tell me “more”! Signing with baby is so important to me. I taught signing to Jada and Titus as infants, and I plan on teaching baby Xia when she is old enough as well.
At 10 mos. old Jada was able to tell me when she was hungry, when she wanted milk, when she wanted something (please), when she needed help (leading to a lot less frustration!), and when she wanted more of something. Imagine being able to empower your baby with the gift of communication! No more crying for their needs, no more whining for their wants. No more frustration on your part or theirs due to lack of understanding. I’m telling you, it is wonderful being able to communicate to your child before he develops verbal speech.
One of the myths of teaching babies sign language is that they will not develop verbal language skills. But studies have shown, and I can tell you from personal experience, that this is far from the truth! There are many proven benefits to teaching your baby sign language.
Baby’s who sign (generally):
- Speak earlier than non-signing babies
- Experience less frustration- less tantrums and tears
- Are much happier babies
- Develop significantly larger vocabularies
- Become better readers
- Have IQ’s that are at least 10-12 pts. higher
- Show more advanced language skills
The recommended age to begin teaching baby to sign is around 8 months. Some children do pick it up this early. Others may take a few months, but believe me, if you continue teaching they will begin to copy your motions and associate them with their meaning.
Some good signs to begin with are milk and more. Others I would recommend are: drink, sleep, help, hurt, please, all done, and wet (for diapers). Of course, these are just basic words that baby would need to better communicate his needs to you. And you don’t have to stop there; once baby has learned a few signs, he can begin to form sentences like, “More milk, please.”
Here is a good website I found with a visual demonstration of some signs. There are many good resources out there to teach you some common signs. Another good one that I really like is Baby Einstein: My First Signs DVD.
Here are some lesson tips to help you get started:
Teaching “milk”: When it’s time to feed baby his milk, before you give it to him say “Milk, milk”, and show him the sign. Then as baby begins to drink say it again, “milk, milk”, and make sure he can see your hand signing this again. Do this every time you give him milk! Every time you say the word “milk” show him the sign. Repetition is key.
Teaching “more”: Sit your baby down to a snack that he really enjoys, but just give him a little bit. Place the food container within baby’s sight. When he runs out of food, and obviously would like some more, ask him, “Do you want some more…more?” and show him the sign. Then give him a little more snack and say again, “More…more” showing him the sign repeatedly. Do this a few times in one sitting. Do the same thing every day. The more he sees you doing the signs, the faster he will begin to do it himself!
(Note: make sure that you don’t cause your baby to become frustrated. This will only discourage him. Don’t make him sign before you give him a snack until he has displayed the ability to do so.)
Teaching “please”: This is a good one to stop all of that undesirable whining! When baby drops something, and starts to point and whine, show him the sign for please and tell him, “Say please…please.” Keep showing him the sign and saying the word. Then take his hand and help him do the sign. Immediately after you have made his hand do the sign give him his desired toy, and tell him, “Good job! Please…please!” And repeat the sign again. Do this every time he whines for something, and before long he will begin signing “please” instead!
You can do this yourself. You don’t have to sign yourself and baby up for some expensive baby signing class! Check out a good sign language book from the library, buy one used on ebay, look around on the internet. The key is teaching baby to associate the sign with the meaning of the word through repetition, and positive reinforcement!